If Tom Brady Isn't the Greatest Athlete of All-Time, Who Is?

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Tom Brady

Tom Brady has made even more history with a win at Super Bowl 55. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback sealed his seventh Super Bowl title and in doing so, he adds to his already outstanding record as the most Super Bowl rings from a player, and to make it all the more extraordinary, Brady did so at the age of 43, 19 years after winning his first. Brady also finished as the MVP for the recent 2021 Super Bowl, meaning he has now added to his record of four to be five up and two ahead of the legendary Joe Montana.

However, it's not just the records and unrivalled amount of Super Bowl wins he has that makes him not just the best of all-time in American football, but as one of the greatest athletes of all-time. It's the fact that Brady has won all of this across two decades and at the age of which most athletes struggle not to pull a muscle on a gentle jog.

The ex-New England Patriots man ran the show at the Super Bowl in February. He pulled the strings like he has done all his career and after winning the greatest prize in that sport at 43 and for a record seventh time, it is impossible not to include him on this list.

floyd mayweather

Picking the greatest boxer of all-time is a tough one because many different eras, weight classes and fighting styles get thrown into one sport, so it's hard to even pick the greatest from this one sport, nevermind in general athletic measure.

However, it really is hard to put up an argument against the self-proclaimed "The Best Ever", as Floyd Mayweather calls himself. Mayweather sits at an unrivalled 50-0 record in boxing, which although there are the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson who have 173 wins and 19 losses, what "Money" did has not been matched.

Prior to his bout with Conor McGregor in 2017, Mayweather was level with Rocky Marciano at 49-0, with Marciano boasting an astonishing 43 knockouts from that, making his record a little more impressive. However, after beating McGregor, the American moved to 50-0 and now sits out on his own in professional boxing.

At the same time, bar a controversial split decision win against Oscar De La Hoya and a closely fought bout with Marcos Maidana, Mayweather never really looked in in trouble across all 50 fights. In fact, he even beat Maidana again in a much more comfortable fashion soon after beating the Argentine in 2014.

Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez, Arturo Gatti, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley are just a few legendary names Mayweather has utterly dominated in the ring and he is without question one of the greatest athletes of all-time.

Phil Taylor

There is absolutely no doubt that when you speak about your average athlete or professional athletes in general, a darts player will not come up. The diet of booze and pork scratchings and the unhealthy obsession with standing still and throwing things at a board doesn't quite scream anything athletic.

However, in terms of dominating a certain sport, not many have done it to the extent of Phil Taylor. "The Power" won 16 World Championships (eight of which were won consecutively), reached 14 consecutive finals and reached 21 world finals overall, all of which are records.

In fact, Taylor's 16 world titles mean he is theoretically up there with almost every great athlete that has ever existed from individual sports and this may never be topped in the world of darts.

Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo

We can't separate them, and neither can anybody else; it's simply a matter of opinion so we've added them both in.

We're ridiculously lucky that we live in a time where both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are in the world as they are the two greatest footballers who have ever lived. You will get people bringing Pele and Diego Maradona into the mix, and that is a fair argument. However, what these two have done is actually break the sport's records to the point of which anything below 40 goals a season is bad for them, and if you know football, you will understand how astonishingly rare 40+ a season is.

Prior to these two dominating, if a goalscorer had netted 25-30 goals in a campaign and won a league title, this was World Player of the Year worthy and classed as a mesmeric season. Not anymore. Not since these two came along. And in fact, so many players don't get the credit they deserve now because Messi and Ronaldo have set the bar so unfairly high.

Now, we live in a world where the average striker won't get much recognition unless he gets more than 30 goals a season, which 15 years ago, was way above the average.

Most recently, we thought Ronaldo became the greatest goalscorer ever existed, but an inquest by the Czech FA has meant that they managed to somehow find an extra handful of goals somewhere for Josef Bican, who supposedly has close to 1,500 goals in his career now.

However, if you know, you know. And you know Messi and Ronaldo are in their own world and have carried their respective teams to countless titles, scored the most obscene goals and completely turned the world's most played sport on its head with the endless records they have set.

Roger Federer

Any athlete who has been regarded as the best in the world for as long as Roger Federer has, they simply need to have an argument this question. Federer has been the world number one for a total of 310 weeks, including a record 237 consecutive weeks - barely any human can touch this feat in their own sport.

The Swiss tennis player first became the world number one in 2004 aged 23 and would has gone onto win 1242 games and lose just 271, which equals to an outrageous 82.1% win rate. Federer would reclaim the number one sport a few times, and whilst most tennis players are barely cracking the latter rounds of the Grand Slams past the age of 33, the 39-year-old is still ranked number five and last had the number one spot at the astonishing age of 36.

Federer also has the most Grand Slam victories tied with Rafael Nadal, and whilst the Spaniard has achieved this feat as well and is one of the greatest athletes of all-time too, what the Swiss maestro has done is simply unrivalled in many, many ways, like his eight Wimbledon titles.

Usain Bolt

Now this one takes some beating.

Theoretically speaking, within the realms of 'the best ever', it's tough to argue against Usain Bolt in the sense that quite literally, nobody has and may never beat him, as his sport works on times recorded, not opinion. Simply put, the aim of sprinting is to run the fastest and Bolt did so better than anybody who has ever lived and he holds the world record in every single sprinting race format, bar the 400m which he never participated in properly anyway.

You can argue whether or not Brady is the greatest football player of all-time, whether LeBron James beats Michael Jordan, whether Muhammad Ali beats Mayweather, or whether or not Phelps is the greatest swimmer given how he technically isn't the fastest. However, you simply cannot dispute the fact that in his sport, literally, nobody touches Bolt and may never do so.

The argument against Bolt, however, is a strong one. Whilst the likes of Federer and Brady are still going today after already two decades of dominance, Bolt's career at the top lasted less than a decade, but, with the science of the human body in sprinting, this is the natural way things go. Simply put, your body does slow down faster than you may think and a sprinter won't last like a quarterback or a tennis player.

So whilst Bolt is, statistically, unrivalled in this argument, his eight years at the top and rapid decline after the 2016 Olympics puts his argument in doubt slightly.

Michael Jordan

It’s always hard to make an argument for an athlete in a team sport because whilst they may be the difference in winning, no player has literally won everything by themselves in a team sport. However, if you’ve watched the recent Netflix series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, you’ll understand why a team player is on this list and how he might just be the only man in history to single handily win a team event by himself.

"By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time," as is stated on the NBA official website. And, in terms of dominance and influence from an athlete in a team sport, Jordan is unrivalled.

Prior to joining the Bulls, they had never won the NBA championship and, they’ve not won one since he left way back in 1998. Jordan would help the Bulls to six of them and win the MVP in all six finals, and whilst this is not a record like others on this list, it is without question, the greatest era from a basketball player in history.

The NBA legend would break countless records and many of them still stand today such as 10 scoring titles, the best season points average (30.12), the best playoff scoring average (33.45), and he is the only player in NBA history to lead the league in scoring, win Most Valuable Player, and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season.

We could go on and on about how many records Jordan broke and still has to his name this day, but he is undoubtedly the most influential player in the history of team sports.

And if you doubt any of this, just watch The Last Dance.

Michael Phelps

In terms of domination in the water, nobody is beating Michael Phelps.

In fact, in terms of Olympic sports, the American is without question the greatest Olympian there has even been with a stunning 23 gold medals across four Olympic games, and the athlete in second is an astonishing 14 gold medals behind him. This effectively means that Phelps dominated his sport for 16 years and nobody even came close to him during that period.

What makes what Phelps did even more impressive is how he won 16 medals in individual events, which includes 13 gold medals in this regard. "The Baltimore Bullet" would also break 21 Guinness World Records, including the record for most world records set in the sport of swimming, which kinda says it all.

Phelps, technically, isn't the fastest swimmer of all time, as that goes to his compatriot Caeleb Dressel who clocked in at a record-breaking 20.16 in the 50m freestyle. However, in terms of dominance across the four strokes, nobody has and may never compare to the great Phelps.

Tiger Woods

Whilst you can argue the greatest of all-time in certain sports, you won't find many if any, that argue against Tiger Woods being the greatest golfer of all-time. Woods is tied for first in PGA Tour wins, ranks second in men's major championships, and holds more records than any other golfer ever existed.

However, it's the nature of how Woods did all this that puts him in his own bracket of brilliance and as a serious contender in this argument. By the age of 21, less than one year after turning professional, the American was already ranked as the world number one and had won the 1997 Masters by 12 strokes in a record-breaking performance.

Woods, after 11 years without a major due to absences away from the sport, would seal the 2019 Masters, 22 years after winning it for the first time. This marked one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history and undoubtedly sealed Woods' place as the greatest golfer of all-time and a member of this illustrious list.

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